Home Office Ideas: Sneak Peek

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Good Morning Weirds.

As you know from my obligatory New Years Goals post, I want to set up an office in our second bedroom. Thanks to Pinterest, I have finally figured out what I want it to look like. Sort of. I am still deciding on the actual placement and furniture, but I have a good idea of the colors and overall style I am aiming for.

I need a space that is all mine and that inspires creativity and productivity. I work from home as a freelance writer, so it has to be functional but also pretty. A place where I want to work.

Here is just a little sneak peak of some ideas I have. More to come when it progresses past “Oh, that would be cool!” to “Oh, it’s an office now!”

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1. These gold shelves inspired the gold aspect of the office.

2. A little bit busy, but I like the twinkle lights and pictures in front of the desk.

3. A gold clipboard gallery wall? Yes please!

4. Considering large desks in the middle of the room instead of an L-shaped desk against the wall.

5. Lots of shelves.

6. Teal couch from Dot & Co. Brilliant.

7. I have always loved marquee letters!

8. Who doesn’t love a fun and colorful pillow party?

9. All the gold all the time.

Happy Friday!

 

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer: A Semi-Typical Day

I know these posts usually have pictures, but who has time for that?! Will do better with the next one!

 

Today (though this is going up tomorrow) is a semi-typical day. It is fairly close to what I do every day, with a few exceptions. I usually do more writing and less research than I did today, but I have some in-depth articles and reports to write, so the research part takes up more time than actually writing it. I also had a phone conference, which only happens once a month.

Whether you’re interested in what freelance writers (or freelancers in general) do all day, here is a brief rundown of my day.

6:00 am – Wake up, get ready for the day.  I woke up at 6. It’s fairly normal. Most days I get up between 4:30 and 6:30. Just whenever my body decides it’s time, or my dogs jump on my face demanding I get up.

6:30 am – Check email and apply for jobs. By 6:30 I’m ready to work for the day. I spend 99% of my time in yoga pants and t-shirts. That’s just how I roll. So “getting dressed” simply means changing my pajama yoga pants into my day yoga pants. I spend the first hour of my day checking and responding to email, applying for jobs on the daily job boards, and checking my social media. I was finding that I was checking it too much throughout the day, so I force myself to only check in the morning, at night when I’m done working for the day, and on my breaks if I get any.

7:30 am – Walk to the store. I don’t have a car and I needed a few things from my store, so between 7:30 and 8:30 I was just running some errands.

8:30 am – Started researching work. At this point, I was ready to finally start working, which consisted of going through my workload for the day, creating documents, coming up with titles and topics, and starting to research them. Today, I have roughly 13,000 words total to write, so it’s going to be some heavy research.

10:00 am – Conference call. From 10-11, I had a conference call with my writing team for one of my bigger projects. It was the first one, so this isn’t something that usually happens for me. I was about as awkward as can be expected.

11:00 am – Photographed jewelry. Another thing I don’t have every single day is stuff for my Etsy shop. I recently got supplies for a new Spring line so I had to take advantage of the natural lighting I was getting. It really messes with my focus when I have to stop working for things like this, but it has to be done!

11:30 am – Finish researching work. Another hour was spent researching work. Because of this, I had to skip lunch today, so I just quickly made a sandwich and ate while I worked.

12:30 pm – Finally start writing. It’s pretty rare that I don’t write until after noon, but I had some other things going on in the morning and researching this work took longer than it usually does. Some nights, I can get everything prepared for the morning, but today I had last-minute assignments come through in the morning that added to my day’s work.

3:00 pm – Edit jewelry pics and post. I took a break from work to get some of my pics edited. I really want to get all of these up as soon as possible since they’re being marketed for Spring. Posting items to Etsy is time consuming, so I tried to rush through this as much as possible. I photographed a lot, but only had time to edit and post a few.

4:00 pm – Back to writing. I am now finished with 6 blog posts, 3 business articles, 3 hotel descriptions, and 2 re-writes. I spent this hour starting on the rest of my travel articles for the day.

5:00 pm – Dinner time! I lucked out and had my husband make dinner tonight, since I didn’t have a spare moment and we got microwaveable pre-prepared meals from Fresh and Easy. Seriously a life saver when you don’t have time for shit!

6:00 pm – Finish work, research, get my husband’s work ready. The end of my day is for finishing up whatever isn’t done by now. I always have a goal to be done before dinner, but I have yet to accomplish it. I finished my writing work for the day, and managed to research about half of what I have for tomorrow morning. I also get my husband’s work ready since he is up at night doing other writing/editing/research projects. This started as my business alone, so all communications go through my email. I just make him a list of what needs to be done at night. There are certain projects I save for him because of the topics or if they are due early the next morning.

9:00 pm – Blog post, then family time. I’m getting through this blog post as fast as I can. My dogs know when it’s time to stop working for the day. One is pretending to stretch on me while the other is laying right on top of my feet. As for family time, we always make sure we have at least an hour or two every night for spending time together away from cell phones and computers. Usually my husband and I watch a movie, play a video game, or play with the dogs during this time. Sometimes I’m so exhausted I just sit and listen to him talk. Either way, it’s important to us to make time for it.

11:30 pm – BED TIME! 

In case you lost count, it’s about 14 hours of working. Whether that means researching, applying for jobs, sending communications, getting docs ready, uploading to Google Docs, working on my Etsy shop (it also generates income) or actually writing, it’s still work. When you freelance, everything is your responsibility, from marketing to writing and editing.

You will notice I didn’t do shit around the house 🙂 I have gotten better with that lately, trying to save an hour in the afternoon for at least picking up, or I will do laundry sporadically throughout the day, but I don’t have time some days. Men super suck at cleaning, but I do give mine a list of things I need done/don’t have time for that he can do without screwing it up. Like vacuuming.. God Bless a husband who likes to vacuum! Aside from that, if it doesn’t get done, it doesn’t get done. I don’t see any cleaning police showing up at my door with a citation.

I hope that helped, or at least made you see what a workaholic I have become, and why I almost never have time to write a blog post. I’m working on that too!

JennSig

Common Misconceptions About Working From Home

I love working from home about 99% of the time, so this post isn’t so much biased, as it is completely hypocritical. But I won’t deny that there are moments when I think.. well, that didn’t go quite how I thought it would. In fact, most of the dreams and fantasies I had about working from home full time (full time as in 12+ hours a day, 7 days a week), are completely false.

I have always been someone who wanted nothing more than to work from home, though writing really wasn’t what I thought I would be doing. There were a lot of reasons, but mostly because I’m lazy and the thought of getting up to go to work every day sounded like hell, and it was. Plus, I’m an introvert, so being a freelance writer is literally the best thing that could have happened to someone like me.

Now that I have been doing it for over 3 years, I consider myself an expert at pointing out all the exaggerated visions of working in your pajamas, sleeping until noon, and getting to make your own schedule.

Here are some of the most common misconceptions about working from home:

You can make your own hours. This was one of the biggest perks for me, as I envisioned staying up until 2 or 3 am and enjoying the days for running errands, walking my dogs, sleeping late, and lounging around the house with my husband. Yeah, not so much. You work when you have work. So while some days, you have the work ahead of time and can technically do it when you want, the majority of freelance writing has very specific deadlines and it is assigned during random times throughout the day. That means being available almost 24/7 to accept it.

You can work in your pajamas. Technically this is true, but there are multiple drawbacks. First of all, it takes forever to throw on a bra and look somewhat decent when someone rings your doorbell at 10 am. Second, it is really hard motivating yourself to “work” when you don’t at least change out of what you wore to bed. Now yoga pants, you definitely wear.

You get to sleep in. Again, maybe you do get to sleep in, but it didn’t work out that way for me. After years of waking up at 5-6 am every morning for work, my body got used to this schedule, as did my dogs. I still wake up by 6 every single morning, whether I want to or not. If I don’t, my dogs jump on my face until I give up this fantasy of sleeping in until noon.

You will have more free time. Will you? Do you think the only reason you never seem to have time is because you work outside your home? Nope. I have less free time now than I ever did with my out-of-house job. When you work from home, your home becomes your office. Which means every time you are at home, you feel the need to be working. It’s unavoidable.

It will be easier to diet. This might be just me. I used to think eating a healthy diet would be easier at home, because I have access to my kitchen and don’t need to worry about bringing something to work that I can put in the microwave. I may not be tempted by vending machines, but I eat just as shitty as I did when I was a diamond grader.

You can work anywhere. Because I am a freelance writer (and not a customer service rep relying on being near a phone or other office equipment), I can technically bring a laptop to wok anywhere I want. When you are working around 12-14 hours a day, sitting on your bed or couch starts to get physically painful. You WILL end up working at a desk just like a normal office job just to save yourself from severe physical pain. I learned this the hard way.

With that being said, I am thankful every day for the opportunity to earn a living from the comfort of my house. But it definitely has its challenges, so consider them before you quit your job and just go for it.

JennSig

Freelance Writing: The Pros and Cons of Writing for Content Mills

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A content mill is essentially a website that pays writers for articles they choose to write. Each of them works slightly differently, so you need to get used to the requirements, pay schedule and process of each of them individually. For example, some mills include Demand Studios, Textbroker, Crowdsource and Scripted.

I won’t lie; working for content mills is kind of shit. However, when you are first starting out and hoping to earn more than the pennies you get from revenue share (like on Yahoo! Contributor Network), you might need them. I started out with content mills and I got really lucky. A few years ago, they were everywhere, paid decently, and there was tons of work. Since then, Google has gone through several new algorithms, changing how search results are created, killing a lot of these sites.

You can still find some content mills that pay rather quickly and on time, and have some articles available in the pool. But for now, let’s talk about the pros and cons of writing for content mills.

PROS of Writing for Content Mills

They pay on time. I should mention they pay on time most of the time. When you freelance, you get used to things happening on occasion. For the most part, I haven’t had a problem getting paid when I am meant to.

You get upfront payment. When writing articles for content mills, you either get upfront payment or revenue share. Revenue share means you get paid per 1,000 views, while upfront payment is a set amount for the article you chose. Most content mills have upfront payment.

You can choose the topic. This also varies based on the site, but many of them simply have a pool of articles you choose from. It lets you pick and choose what topics you feel most comfortable with. Warning: There will be moments when all they have is technical automotive bullshit. You take what you can get.

It gives you experience. If your long-term goal is to be a freelance writer with private clients, you need experience. Since most content mills don’t require a lot of experience aside from showing you are proficient in grammar and proper sentence structure, it’s a great way to do that.

CONS of Writing for Content Mills

The pay is on the low side. This of course depends all on your perspective, how much you want to make, and how long it takes you to write articles. Some content mills pay a cent a word ($5.00 for 500 words) while others pay $15 or more for the same amount of work.

The work is inconsistent. As I mentioned in the pros, you can choose from available articles, but the ones available aren’t always what you want to write. One day, a content mill can have 2,000 articles in your topic, the next day they have 5 really terrible titles that are impossible to write.

Editors can be brutal. There is an unspoken distaste between writers and editors who work for content mills. A lot of it is miscommunication and inconsistency with what the clients or admins are going for. Expect some of your work to be slashed, some to be rejected, and others to demand so many edits you practically re-write the entire thing.

Everything is unpredictable. The same can be said for content mills, clients, and freelancing in general. Don’t ever assume the work you have is going to last forever. Freelancing isn’t about finding a great project and having it forever. You need to constantly grow and change and find new opportunities.

I don’t mean to be overly negative about content mills, but to give you my honest opinion so you can decide if this is something you want to pursue. The ones I have worked for have paid my bills, my rent, fed me, clothed me, and given me enough experience to get stable clients. It’s not all bad, but you need to look at it from an honest perspective and understand the good and the bad.

Good luck!

JennSig

Freelance Writing: Quick Resources

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Due to a large number of responses, questions and comments recently, I decided to turn this into a series. To start off, I know many of you are just looking for a place to start. So here are some helpful resources and tips.

Tip #1: Have a Portfolio

Even if you are just starting out and looking for your very first writing job, you need to have samples of some kind. They can be posts from your blog or guest posts on another blog, website content, or print work you have scanned into your computer. Clients and content mills need to know you know what you’re doing, so there is really no way around this. Many content mills will ask you to write a sample for them, so having experience helps.

The WAHM.com Forums

I highly recommended reading through at least a few pages of posts on this Freelance Writing section of WAHM.com. This is where I got a lot of my jobs. Not only do private clients post fairly frequently looking for writers, but writers who have extra work do, and a lot of your common questions get answered.

Tip #2: Get Work Published

When building up your portfolio, having at least a handful of articles published in your name (not as a ghostwriter) is invaluable. Having your own blog is a good start, but also getting work published by a site that is recognizable. I started out getting work published at Yahoo! Contributor Network. It is one of the best places to start, though be aware it only pays per view.

FreelanceWritingGigs.com

Another site I think you should check out when it comes time to find private clients is FreelanceWritingGigs.com. She finds all the best job listings across the web and posts them Monday through Friday on her blog. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also look yourself, but it’s a quick way to get the best listings.

Finding Private Clients

The end goal really is to have private clients, even if you do start working for revenue share or content mills. Here are some ways myself and other writers have found their clients.

  • Keeping a writing blog updated regularly
  • Having a writing website, with portfolio
  • Posting and responding on writing forums, like the WAHM.com one
  • Posting or responding to ads on Craigslist (will go more into this later on)
  • Having a Twitter or Facebook page advertising your writing services
  • Word of mouth

I’ll be back with a list of content mills that are currently accepting writers and have steady work.

JennSig

My 6 Biggest Accomplishments As a Writer (so far)

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After about four years of freelance writing and ghostwriting, I have managed to get mediocre success and gain some accomplishments I am quite proud of. Here are the top six.

1. Finding Private Clients

From what I can tell, a lot of freelance writers start the same way I did; with content mills. While they are great for getting your feet wet, learning proper grammar and sentence structure, and building your portfolio, it wasn’t the end goal for me. In the beginning, I just wanted to earn a living writing from home. Before too long, though, I wanted more for what I put into it. I consider my private clients a big accomplishment because they chose me out of others they considered to handle their writing projects, and I was able to escape the content mill tornado of chaos.

2. Finishing NaNoWriMo. Twice.

This is more for the inner creative writer in me. My “novels” were terrible, but I finished, and that’s the point. They call it literary abandon for a reason. NaNoWriMo is a challenge that happens every November for 30 days, where you attempt to write a 50,000-word novel, story or novella. “Winning” Nano means you finished your 50,000 words in 30 days. To some, this seems incredibly difficult, and to others, incredibly easy. If you’re like me and write a good 10,000 words daily for your job, it doesn’t seem that hard. However when it comes down to it, it takes a lot of dedication to find the time and energy to write this month when you’re still trying to live your life.

I have attempted Nano for the last 3 years: the first year I failed miserably, the second year I finished in only 14 days and this past year I finished with only about 2 days to spare.

3. Being Referred by Other Clients and Writers

All creative types want validation, and this is why I love being referred. Not only have these fellow writers or clients paid me to work for them, but they referred me to others. About half the clients I have right now are from other clients who happened to know someone that needed a writer. Networking works!

4. Making a Full-Time Income

That is the goal, right? When I first started writing a few years ago, I may have had dreams of doing it full time, but realistically, didn’t think it was plausible. When it did become a reality, I was ecstatic. This was actually my job. My real job. I could actually call myself a “writer” though I rarely do. Even on days when I just want a break or a paid day off or to not sit in front of a computer 12 hours a day, I try to remember that this is the dream. This is what I wanted to be doing.

5. Calling Myself a Writer

Speaking of using that 6-letter word, I still struggle with it. If someone asks me what I do for a living, I say I write, but I don’t say I’m a writer. Why? No clue. It’s one of those words that feels strange coming out of my mouth. But it’s still an accomplishment, because I can say I’m a writer, that’s what I do. I may not be a novelist, but I get paid for putting words together.

6. My First Article on Yahoo! Shine

It’s easy to be published by Yahoo! Contributor Network, but when you get into the special areas of the site, it’s a whole different ballgame. At one point a few years ago, the site was asking for requests for their different sections. I submitted this article and it was approved. At the time, it felt like a big deal since I made it off the contributor floor and onto the actual official Yahoo! floor. It’s a little embarrassing going back and reading my writing from those days, but still something I’m proud of.

Looking forward, there is a lot more I want to do, but it’s nice reflecting on the successes you have already had. Happy writing!

JennSig

How I Got Started As a Freelance Writer

When I’m not attempting to take mediocre pictures of whatever makes me happy during the day, or spending hours on Bloglovin’ and Pinterest, I write. Like for a living. People pay me for it. And since I get dozens of questions about it from dozens of people, I thought I would start with how I got started in the first place.

Learning to Write

I am not college educated, nor did I take special classes for writing. I simply taught myself, read a lot and followed tips from other writers. I started at the bottom and worked my way up, learning as I went along. And I still have a lot more to learn.

Writing as a Hobby

I began, like so many other online writers do, on Yahoo! Contributor Network. That’s what it was called back then. It has since changed to Yahoo! Voices I believe. At the time, I was working full time as a diamond grader and simply wrote little articles in my spare time. At the time, I just wanted to add to the money I was making at my day job, and absolutely did not expect to be doing it full time.

I recommend starting out in a place like Yahoo, where you can submit just about anything you want and learn as you go. It gives you experience and some good samples to send to potential clients when you get to that point. I still make a little money every month off articles I wrote four years ago.

Writing More, Working Less

Near the end of 2010, I found myself becoming highly involved in writing and not caring much about my diamond grading job anymore. There were a lot of changes at the company I worked for, causing me to lose interest. This was after about six months of writing articles, after which I began looking for other places to write. I then was researching “upfront pay” jobs, where you get a set amount for each article or blog post, as opposed to being paid by views, which is how Yahoo! works for most of what you submit.

This is how I stumbled upon Demand Media Studios (DMS). They were a “content mill” that paid writers per piece that was approved. You basically select from a pool of articles, research and write based on the title of the article, submit and wait for it to be approved. I liked the pay rate, I liked the easy topics, and I loved that they paid twice a week. At the time, I had no idea it would only be around for another few months, but it was one of the main reasons I quit my job.

DMS is still around, but everything is different and I no longer work for them.

Quitting My Job and Moving On

Now looking back, almost three years later, I realize this was a mistake. Not so much that I made the decision, but because I did it on a whim. I have a tendency to act on impulse, usually without common sense, and I literally went in one day and said “I Quit. Bye.” At the time, I was making more per article than I was in an hourly wage at my job. So I thought it made sense.

The first few months were good, but then DMS went to shit and I found myself without a job. The next year was rough, I won’t lie. But it all came around and I am still doing the same thing, with a lot more stability.

From Content Mills to Private Clients

Every writer wants to have private clients. Content mills are fine in the beginning, but most of us move on because of the restrictions, the inconsistent editing tactics, and the low pay.

Since you’re not here to read a novel on my entire writing career, I will tell you this: freelance writing is hard work. It takes a lot of dedication, motivation, and a LOT of hours in front of a computer. I would say I spend at least 12-16 hours at my desk. Every day. 7 days a week. Weekends, holidays, birthdays. I don’t get sick days and I don’t get vacations. In return, I get to work my own hours (sort of) and am able to work from home, which is something I have always wanted to do.

I have a lot more to say about this topic, so I will make it a regular thing, for anyone interested in pursuing it.

JennSig